Short Note : Gerrymandering

Published: July 3, 2019

Gerrymandering is unethical but legal practice in the United States.

It is used by political parties to establish an unfair advantage for a particular party or electoral group by manipulating the boundaries of the electoral district.

The term owes its origins to Elbridge Gerry, who in 1812, as the Governor of Massachusetts, signed a bill that created an electoral district in the Boston area which aggregated all voters to his advantage.

The shape of the district resembled that of a salamander- hence the name “Gerrymandering” stuck.

What Gerrymandering is dangerous?

  • Political parties have this realization that no matter what they do, certain segments of the society will never vote for them.
  • To minimize the electoral fallout due to this, political parties in the US re-draw district boundaries to minimize the political spread of the voters against them and gather them in fewer constituencies.
  • Needless to say, these constituencies are spread unevenly and have strange appearances.

Why is it in the news?

The Supreme Court of the United States announced its decision in the Rucho v. Common Cause and stated that if a legislature redraws districts that disproportionately favor one party, it s a political question and the federal courts can t fix it. This ruling came as a major set back to the critics of the gerrymandering system who were expecting significant reforms in this area.

What happens in India?

In India, political redistricting is handled by the Delimitation Commission of India which is constituted by the Central Government after the Parliament has enacted a Delimitation Act (under Article 82) after every census. It has been set up 4 times to date. Fresh delimitation has been frozen till 2026.

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